Planning For Retirement in the Light of Proposed Benefit Cuts


News of the impending benefits cuts is spreading like wildfire. Among these proposals are changing from a high 3 to a high 5 tension estimation method, COLA reductions, and hiked FERS contributions.


Recently, the Office of Personnel Management asked Congress to help narrow the gap between federal benefits and those of the private sector. Although the proposal has been drawn out, it seems likely that Congress will alter federal benefits. On the other hand, federal employees may create their own retirement plans to cater for their future.


But what impact will these proposals have? Below are a few examples to consider. For a deeper analysis of the effect of this proposal see this post.

Change From High 3 to High 5

A change from a high 3 to a high 5 benefit estimation process entails assessing an individual’s years of service, overall salary, and other factors that affect the amounts of pension they receive.


Let’s assume an individual with federal service equal to 20% of their high 3 or high 5 for that matter. Next, we require knowing which five years of federal service they had the highest salaries. To compute their pension, we average their highest 3 or 5 years salaries, taking out 20% of this figure. For example, an employee has $70,000, $72,000, $74,000, $76,000, and $78,000 as the highest five years salaries.


One may respond that it is impossible to get these kinds of salaries. Even so, there are two factors that are responsible for these kinds of wages. One is that these amounts are the result of periodic promotions or raised somewhere along their highest 3 year period.


The second reason could be wherein individual receives a raise during their highest 5 years of service. The proposed changes would extend his pension estimation from high 3 to high 5. If for five years one had a salary of $50,000, then their pension will be based on a salary of $50,000.


Let’s consider increases from$70,000 to $78,000, and then their high 3 could be the three last year with an average of $76,000. However, using high 5 estimations, their average would be $74,000. For both cases, 20% of this figure equates to $14,800 for high 5 and $15,200 for the high 3. The implementation of this proposal would create a reduction of $400 to an individual’s annual pension. All the same, a decline of this type is minimal. On the other hand, this reduction may increase due to higher salaries, higher percentages, or because of a salary hike in one year causing a higher average. In regards to one’s total pension, the adjustment from high 3 to a high 5 will cause a lower minimal reduction.

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Contributions to FERS


Finally, federal employees will make higher contributions towards their pension schemes. The date of one’s hire determines the amount individuals contribute. Since 2013, the percentage of withheld salary was revised upwards. Though this adjustment was implemented, it only affects those hired since then.


Nonetheless, this proposal will affect current federal employees not just those hired after 2013. At present, it is impossible to predict how much an employee’s contribution will be with some workers paying 0.8% to 4.4%. This proposal will affect some employees more than others. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this amount may increase with 5.8%.


For example, if we apply this percentage to $100,000, then itis possible to estimate the actual reductions. Changing from 0.8% to 5.8% is a considerable jump. However, it is expected to be introduced through phases, meaning this is an increase of $5,000 for a $100,000 salary.


As this $5,000 figure comprises an employee’s taxable income, the reduction would be less. Consequently, it might be just a few dollars on an employee’s paycheck. For instance,an employee used to pay4.4% of his salary towards their pension ends up paying 5.8%. This will still make a difference in their pay, though this will be on their net taxes not as a reduction.


Only time will clear up the situation. Interestingly, lots of concern will be expressed regarding these changes. Keep checking with us for more stories about these developments.

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